New SBJT examines Gospel of Mark

Communications Staff — November 16, 2004

Many people within the modern society – both inside and outside the church – are confused about the true identity of Jesus Christ, the editor of the latest edition of the Southern Baptist Journal of Theology (SBJT) asserts.

The scholars who contribute to the Fall 2004 edition of the SBJT seek to bring clarity to the Lord’s identity by examining the Gospel of Mark.

The SBJT looks at several different aspects of the person and work of Christ through the lens of the New Testament’s second book. Essayists include three professors from The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary – Robert H. Stein, Brian J. Vickers and William F. Cook III. The journal was written to accompany the winter Bible study published by LifeWay Christian Resources.

In his editorial, editor Stephen J. Wellum calls church members to carefully study the Gospel of Mark to learn about the person and work of the One who has come to save sinners.

“What characterizes our society, and sadly the church, is a profound biblical illiteracy, which opens the door to serious confusion regarding the identity and utter importance of our Lord. In such a situation, how ought the church to respond? The answer is simple and perennial: we must return once again to the Scriptures in study and prayer, being confronted anew with our great God in the face of Jesus Christ.

“We must proclaim afresh the Jesus of the Bible in all of his glory and majesty as the only Lord and Savior, and even more, we must personally take up our cross, follow him, and proclaim him to our generation.”

Stein, Mildred and Ernest Hogan Professor of New Testament Interpretation, presents a basic overview of Mark and deals with six exegetical issues that any serious pastor or teacher must deal with in properly interpreting the book. Above all else, Stein says the student of Mark must grapple with the author’s intended meaning of the text and not fall prey to a “reader-response” method of biblical interpretation.

“In a day and age where the ‘reader’ and his or her reading of the text has taken priority over the intended meaning of the author, it is important for evangelicals to affirm that the goal of our study is to understand what the divinely inspired authors of Scripture meant by the texts they have provided for us,” Stein writes.

“In the study of Mark, this means to seek to understand what Mark means by the words and traditions of Jesus that he has provided for us. The affirmation of the divine inspiration of Mark should have as a corollary to this a determination to understand the meaning that the biblical author gave to his words.”

Cook, associate professor of New Testament Interpretation, writes on the Passion narrative of Christ which encompasses almost 40 percent of Mark. Cook’s article gives a brief exposition of the Passion and focuses on issues of historicity. In chapters 14 and 15, Cook argues that Mark answers two crucial questions.

“[The questions are] why Jesus had to die and how he died,” Cook writes. “Jesus died as a part of God’s plan. This is seen in Mark’s repeated references and allusions to the Old Testament scriptures and the fulfillment of Jesus’ prophetic pronouncements concerning his death.

“The second question is answered by his depiction of Jesus’ dying completely alone, abandoned by all supporters, surrounded by his enemies, but having drunk the cup given him by the Father.”

Vickers, assistant professor of New Testament interpretation, shows that the key to understanding both the message and identity of Jesus is bound up in understanding the Kingdom He came to inaugurate. Vickers unpacks what the Kingdom is both in its Old Testament context and New Testament fulfillment. The Kingdom of God has come and yet will come, he concludes.

“The phrase ‘the Kingdom of God’ means that God is ruling and reigning over all creation,” Vickers writes. “Jesus, the divine Son of God, the Suffering Servant and Son of Man, inaugurated God’s Kingdom in his life, death, and resurrection. Though the time was fulfilled in the incarnation, the Kingdom of God was not fully consummated even at the resurrection of Jesus.

“We await the final revelation of God’s rule and reign. The Son of Man will yet return in the glory of the Father. The Kingdom of God grows up in the midst of the kingdom of this world. This means that like the first disciples of Jesus, we live in a period of fulfillment mixed with expectation.”

Other essayists include James R. Edwards, professor and chair of the department of religion and philosophy at Whitworth College, Michael J. Wilkins, professor of New Testament language and literature at Talbot School of Theology at

Biola University, A.B. Caneday, professor of New Testament studies and biblical theology at Northwestern College, and Charles Quarles, associate professor of New Testament and Greek at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary.

The journal also includes a number of book reviews. For more information on the journal of theology, please call 800-626-5525, extension 4413 or e-mail

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